Second chance granted: 'I was part of taking a human life' in Detroit murder

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Larry Smith served more than 40 years in prison for his role in the targeted killing of a Detroit man in the summer of 1975. 

Smith spoke of the crime duri a commutation hearing in August 2018, saying he wanted to "give back to society for the things that I took from society." 

Larry Smith

Now 65, Smith was released in March after being granted commutation in December. 

On Aug. 9, 1975, Smith and two friends carried out the murder of 29-year-old Detroiter Maurice Knight. The Detroit News' attempts to contact Smith for an interview were unsuccessful.

“I was part of taking a human life, and every day I live with that," he said during his hearing last year before a representative of the state's parole board. 

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Smith's co-defendants in the killing were an elementary school friend, Rickey Rimmer, and Marjorie Parson, a youth development worker at a neighborhood center, according to transcripts.

Smith testified at the commutation hearing that a couple of weeks prior to the murder, he and some friends were approached by Parson and offered money to beat up Knight, who Smith claimed, had been operating a drug house near an elementary school.

Later, Smith and Rimmer were tipped off to where Knight was and went over there "to beat him up," he said. But Smith claimed that Rimmer instead brought a gun and shot Knight. Another friend drove and remained in the car while the pair confronted Knight. Rimmer and Parsons were also convicted in Knight's death. 

"I was a part of Mr. Knight dying. It was my car that went over there," Smith said during the hearing. "He got killed, maybe I could have altered it."

At that time, Smith testified he was a 21-year-old “illiterate” with a “sixth-grade education” and “I associated with thugs because I was a thug.”

“We did criminal activity,” he said. “We sat around and thought about doing criminal activity.”

Smith said it wasn’t that he didn’t come from a good home. He “just liked being in the streets.” 

Smith previously was convicted as an adult of attempted armed robbery and was later sentenced for another crime less than four months prior to the murder.

Smith confessed to his role in Knight's killing and agreed later to testify against Rimmer in a separate case. Smith, who was on parole, said he was given immunity and transferred to Arkansas for protection.

Then, he committed an armed robbery at a Texas gas station. Within a couple of years, he was extradited back to Michigan. He escaped authorities and fled to Canada.

He was apprehended there in the fall of 1977. He went to trial and was sentenced in the spring of 1978.

These days, Smith said he's a mentor for other young men who were like he was at that time. He went back to school while in prison and was trained in the Chance for Life, a nonprofit's skills training program for inmates, according to transcripts. 

Prison officials, relatives, friends and others submitted letters urging his release. 

Smith, during the hearing, described himself as a man of God and "person that people can trust." 

"But I had to come here to grow, to be the person I am today," he said.